My Top dineLA Restaurant Week Picks for Winter, 2013: January 21 – February 1

Braised Beef Cheek, Taleggio Pureed Potatoes, Chanterelles

Happy Martin Luther King Day! Also, what a joyous second inauguration day. In this case, it also means the very first day of dineLA Restaurant Week. If you haven’t, already, you best be making your reservations right now – or better yet, take advantage of your day off and find your prix fixe destination for lunch today.

I’ve done a bit of perusing the incredibly extensive list of restaurants and their offered menus around the city and came up with a few categories that struck me. With 3-course prix fixe as the standard, here are some standout menu offerings the week starting today, Monday, January 21 – Friday, February 1:

Best Opportunity to Try New Chef at Venue

Not new chefs by any definition (in fact, the tenure of this group is impressive especially by L.A. standards) – just new venues.

I associate my first experiences with potted rillettes, headcheese and pates in L.A. with Remi Lauvand, and he’s now at Le Ka, having just opened last September. Downtown workers can get their feet wet on the $25 lunch menu, but interesting dinner menu items include escargot cavatelli, lamb’s tongue and scallops with lentils and chicken skin – some things that may be too good to pass up.

With Vartan Abgaryan now serving at a venue in possession of one of the most enviable patios in Silver Lake, I can’t help but simply displace the delicious plates he was just serving at Public Kitchen & Bar and imagine them enjoyed in outdoor dim lighting surrounded by foliage. Sure, he’s changed up a few things, but I’ve always been a fan of his octopus.

Just a week ago, IDG’s RivaBella just started serving dinner in its brand-new, 8,000 square foot space, basically the antithesis of Angelini Osteria. You’ll have to settle for lunch if you want to do Restaurant Week here, but if Gino Angelini’s pasta (such as a green pappardelle in ragu) is part of the 3-course offering, that will always do.

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Unearthing Heirloom LA, a Hidden Gem in Eagle Rock

Handcut Chitarra Pasta, fennel sausage, garden thyme, black preserved truffle, parmesan reggiano foam, cauliflower ash

It’d be a glaring omission to recall best Los Angeles meals of 2012 on Eater LA and not give my mentions a proper write-up, and so here is an account of my experience at the bespoke Salon at Heirloom LA.

I say bespoke because the act of stumbling into Heirloom was shockingly not via their famously flavor-packed, personal sized lasagna cupcakes found at farmer’s markets around town, but instead by luck of an invitation to a private dinner showcasing Bridlewood Wines in that said tasting room. Fortunately, they’ll be opening it up to the public a few days during the week, and I imagine the Eagle Rock community will meet that unveiling with elation. So bring on 2013, then.
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DieN’Isis XI: The Zombie Apocalpyse Beer Dinner is at Dusk on Sunday

Dio(e)nicess Poster

Something special is coming up on Sunday – it’s so special it’s “to die for,” and luckily there are a few tickets left, so grab them quick. Yet again, there’s something brewing down in Long Beach – but for this 11th installment of Dionicess, you can forget it being holiday themed, and instead Walking Dead themed. Zombie themed. What-have-you.

To match, the series has been temporarily renamed as “Die”-nisis and will be serving food to accommodate their vision, including food and beer inspired by corpses, skeletons, brains and all of the above. Though they say it’s a 5-course dinner, if you’re familiar at all with their events, you know there will be some extras.

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Baja Chef Series at Playa Rivera Has Launched With Paired Cocktails

Mini Tostada with Sea Urchin at 2011 Street Food Fest – La Guerrerense, “Best in Show”

I remember the anticipation we all felt when the Baja chefs came to Street Food Fest at the Rose Bowl in the summer of 2011. It was just the ingredient needed to take the festival to a new level. Not only would we be having access to some of the best street food in LA at one place, we’d also be experiencing the best of Baja.

Thanks to Reverse Coyote Bill Esparza, there’s been quite a bit of sharing going on across the California-Mexico border. We Angelenos get to reap the benefits at Playa, the playground of Sedlar’s latest experimentation. As he is currently changing the menus here, we’ll get to go straight to the sources of his inspiration thanks to this series.

Cue the installment going on now, starting with Sabina Bandera Gonzales of La Guerrerense, who will be cooking with Chef Sedlar now until tomorrow, Tuesday, September 18th – though the menus for each installment will actually be available all week long. Sabina brings dishes her top seafood stand seasoned with a variety of unique salsas. A la carte menu items are $5-$18 and include:

  • Tostada of sea urchin ceviche with clam on top
  • Tostada of sea snail ceviche with slices of sea snail on top
  • Tostada campechana (tuna fish ceviche with scallops, octopus, shrimp and sea snail on top)
  • Campechano cocktail (Cup of shrimp, octopus, scallops and sea snail)
  • Codfish ceviche (cooked in olive oil with vegetables, olives, capers)
  • Tostada of tuna smoked pate with scallops on top

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Colonial Wine Bar is the Neighborhood Spot Melrose Needs

Colonial Wine Bar Interior

There’s enjoying wine, and there’s enjoying wine with food. And maybe you live or are near Melrose just for the moment, but you probably were looking for something a little less bro-tastic. While pairings have gotten increasingly more attention as of late, it’s hard to come by an expert without the expectation of spending an exorbitant amount as a result of access to that expertise. Thankfully, Colonial Wine Bar brings that luxury to Melrose diners at neighborhood prices.

Lamb Burger

Chef de Cuisine Ryan Otey, who has all of Patina, Tasting Kitchen and Villetta on his resume, is serving up some rustic dishes in the intimate wine bar. The bar itself lines the wall as your eye is caught by the glass-encased wine cellar in the back. The overall feel of the crown-molding-adorned place is casual with plenty of play available towards getting as serious about the food and wine as needed.

You’ll find familiar dishes such as deviled eggs, bone marrow, flatbreads, burrata and heirloom tomatoes on the menu, but not-to-miss is their lamb – whether as meatballs or a burger. Their mushrom risotto is also solid, appropriately buttressing the definition of “comforting wine bar” as Colonial stands. There are a few beer taps behind the bar, as well, where I pleasantly found Hitachino White Ale on draft.

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Dionicess X Presents Coming of Age: Pairing 5 Aged Beers With 5 Aged Foods

Beachwood BBQ, Long Beach

You may be familiar with the Dionicess series by now, or perhaps not.

Whatever the case, it’s time to get (re-)acquainted for the tenth installment of pairing sessions, because the boys are about to bring you an extravaganza of aged beers and foods for your enjoyment.

Dionicess X Crew: Gev Kazanchyan, Dave Watrous, Randy Clemens, Julian Shrago & Gabe Gordon

Yes, you’ll have to venture to Long Beach for this special event, but let’s be honest: There’s really no better reason to do so than Beachwood BBQ. At an all-inclusive $80 with 5 pairings and the proceeds going to Real Medicine Foundation, you know this particular summer Sunday will be more than worth it.

Some intel to get you excited:

The base beer by Julian of Beachwood BBQ is high-gravity and contains Green Cardamom and was fermented with a bunch of Blackstrap Molasses. Jeff Duggan of Portola Coffee Lab was given a sample of this base beer in order to craft a coffee that would lend the beer an “Armenian coffee” note. These beans were then placed in the beer a few days ago. Soon, oak chips that have been soaked in 25-year-old Armenia Cognac will be used to age the beer in time for the event. And the resulting product, dubbed “System of a Stout,” will be an exclusive to Dionicess X for the series’ tenth anniversary and for your tasting pleasure.

You’ll have Gev Kazanchyan, a public health professor; Randy Clemens of Sriracha Cookbook fame; Dave Watrous, “The Guezehound” of Beachwood BBQ; Gabe Gordon, Executive Chef of Beachwood and Julian Shrago, Brewmaster of Beachwood to guide the way. Because you’d expect nothing short of the experts to impart knowledge and tastes to your palate, now wouldn’t you?

Basically, everything you’ll be enjoying on this evening will have undergone an aging process of some sort – whether beer or food. And there will be a couple goodies to take home with you, such as a specially-bottled, limited edition Bourbon Barrel Aged Chile Sauce. Talk about swag.

Tickets are almost sold out, so it’d be a good idea not to sleep on this one and reserve your seats now… I’ll see you there.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

5 PM

Tickets: $80 (Pre-registration & payment required)

Beachwood BBQ
210 E. 3rd Street
Long Beach, CA 90802

Dionicess IX is Craft Cubed: Beer & Booze Pairing

Randy Clemens, Dave Watrous, Gev Kazanchyan and Matt Biancaniello | Photo credit to

We’re about due for another Dionicess event. Of course, these guys won’t stop outdoing themselves as they’ve brought a beer & booze pairing to fruition.

Matt Biancaniello of The Roosevelt Hotel’s Library Bar is brought into the fold with Randy Clemens, Dave Watrous and Gev Kazachyan as they pair five craft beers with five craft spirits. Prepare for a boozy evening in late October at Steingarten LA to benefit the Real Medicine Foundation for an all-inclusive $65 entrance fee.

And if you know anything about Matt or the Dionicess crew, you’ll automatically know this is something unique they have up their sleeves. Expect garden-fresh ingredients a la Matt with your spirits and beer pairings.

Better start arranging that taxi… See you there.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

7 PM

$65 per person, all-inclusive tickets

Steingarten LA
10543 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064

City Tavern and Ladyface Ale Beer Dinner: September 15, 2011

Grilled Stone Fruit, Burrata, Almonds, Ale Vinaigrette (paired with Eagle Rock Brewery Yearling Flanders Red ale)

Beer Dinners: You can’t really have too many. Good thing City Tavern, the Downtown Culver City hangout with taps at the tables (a couple of them, anyway) is holding one with Ladyface Ale Companie next Thursday, September 15th.

There will be one seating at 7 PM (up to 7:30 PM, if you prefer) and included in your $46 cost are 4 courses + amuse bouche, each paired with a Ladyface beer. For the full menu, peep below:

Amuse bouche
Deviled egg, asparagus, roe
6oz., abv: 8.3%

1st course
Orzo salad with crab, avocado, grapefruit and beet vinaigrette
6 oz., abv: 8.7%

2nd course
Potted duck confit and crisps
6 oz., abv: 10.9%

3rd course
Smoked cocoa-rubbed tri-tip sandwich and potato salad
Picture city porter
6 oz., abv: 7.0%

Spiked watermelon and peppered strawberries
Sazerac-oaked red rye
6 oz., abv: 7.2%

I had a lovely time at one of City Tavern’s other beer dinners, which was in conjunction with Eagle Rock Brewery. My favorite was a stone fruit salad, which was paired expertly with their Yearling Flanders Red Ale. If this is any indication, next Thursday’s beer dinner will be solid. It’s a great way to support local business and beer while celebrating the end of summer (if that’s your thing).

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

7 PM

Reserve: 310.838.9739

City Tavern
9739 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

FOH/BOH³: The Fixers (Zadi, Haskell & Park) Debuts at LaOn in Koreatown

LaOn Dining Room

A couple days ago, there was an announcement of an alliance formed by Farid Zadi, David Haskell & Susan Park called FOH/BOH³. Derived from Front of the House and Back of the House acronyms (“to the third power” is of no detail), the name is meant to capture the essence of their partnership – the pursuit of proper, hands-on restaurant training from the ground up.

Pyeon Chae

The trio wasted no time getting down to business as it has just been announced that they will be debuting at Jenee Park’s (also of Park’s BBQ and Don Dae Gam) LaOn (previous review) on Western this weekend. The location of their first project was secured at this newish restaurant just 3 hours after their interview with LA Weekly Squid Ink’s Amy Scattergood was finished. It’s a perfect setting for their launch, as Zadi has worked in Seoul for three years as a chef and managing partner at a restaurant. It also is expressive of David Haskell’s intense passion for Korean food.

Open Flame Abalone

Park and Zadi created a special menu of 8 dishes, dubbed “Lucky Cat”, to complement LaOn’s traditional menu. One thing’s for sure: The menu of this “limited engagement” is not to be underestimated. Nothing on the menu will be watered down, but instead will showcase the fabric of what Korean food is all about. 

“I have a lot of respect for Korean cooking. My mother in law is from Jeon-Ju, the culinary capital of South Korea,” Farid says. “This isn’t fusion or even modern Korean. We’re taking Korean ingredients, flavors and techniques and recontextualizing them while retaining the soul of Korean cuisine: the bold, stick to your guts flavors that make it so satisfying.”

Haskell will be pairing each menu item with a wine or beer, the pairing pours of which will be available for $6 each – or glass pours for $12 each. Expect this pairing experience to evolve your perceptions of and experiences in Korean food, as I can’t recall a single time I’ve had traditional Korean food with proper wine pairing. FOH/BOH³’s “front of the house” team will be on-hand to ensure top-notch service throughout both nights.

Check out the menu below:

LAON MENU (traditional tapas)

  • 편채 PYEON CHAE Beef carpaccio with onions,sesame leaf,radish sprout – 10
  • 칠절판 SEVEN WRAP Cucumber,carrot,beef,shiitake mushroom,egg with radish wrap – 7
  • ì–´ì„  FISH WRAP Steamed fish and assorted vegetables in an egg wrap – 10
  • 궁중떡볶이 TEOKBOKKI Rice cake in soy based sauce – 10
  • 갈비찜 GALBI JJIM Braised short rib – 15
  • 오징어순대 STUFFED SQUID Stuffed with tofu,beef,squid & vegetables – 10
  • 전복요리 OPEN FLAME ABALONE Lightly seasoned fresh abalone – MP
  • 잡채 JAPCHAE Clear noodle with mixed vegetables – 7

FOH/BOH³: Lucky Cat LaOn

  • Spicy chicken kochi/foie gras fat fingerlings/ garlic chips – 12
  • Crab and kimchi brik/orange and onion salad – 8
  • Thai cobb ssam – 10
  • Thai curry bacon, avocado, duck rillettes, quail egg, tomato, fried shallot, lettuce
  • Grilled oysters – 3 each
    Dashima, ponzu, serrano mignonette and gochujang vinaigrette
  • Uni and scallop chawanmushi – MP
  • ½ dozen peel ‘n’ eat grilled prawns/shiso chimichurri – MP
    Laotian curry marinated whole prawns
  • Braised beef cheeks/ slow roasted corn cheese/baby carrot/arugula quick-chi – 14
    Riff on braised kalbi

So be sure to secure your table now. This limited engagement will sell out fast! Call 323.798.4648 or email David Haskell at [email protected] (Also note that reservations go til 1 AM – perfect for you nightowls.) Reservation lines are open now.

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Sat – Sun: August 27 – 28, 2011

5 PM – 1 AM

To reserve: Call 323.798.4648 or email [email protected]

1145 S. Western Ave
Los Angeles CA 90006

Orgasmo de la Boca: The Underground Supper Club of the Senses

Duck Breast, Roasted Cauliflour, Basil Puree, Dried Fig and Brandy Gastrique, Crispy Fennel | Photo credit: Tricia Romano

When Chef Alessandra invited me to her transplanted-from-Oregon (and before that, Spain) underground supper club, I was intrigued. The theme of the night was of the lovers’ variety. And so I traveled to a quaint backyard somewhere in a lovely LA neighborhood to partake in her Aphrodisiac Dinner. I went solo, but was comforted when I found the dinner party also included fun company – no doubt a result of the kind of company the exuberance of the chef naturally attracted.

Oyster Two Ways: Sauteed Cornmeal Crusted Oyster on Red Wine Onion Confit & Fanny Bay on the Halfshell With Red Wine Shallot Mignonette | Photo by Tricia Romano

It was a beautiful setting – and one in which it was comfortable to enjoy a full-on eight courses (plus a bonus course) with wine pairings. Though I admit I was worried when I saw it was to take place outside, it was not too cold nor too warm underneath that cozy, red light-tinged tent. The setting is no detail to be glossed over when it comes to underground supper clubs, but in Orgasmo de la Boca’s case, it was perfect. The explanations behind what was going on through Chef Allesandra’s mind while constructing each dish were lovely to behold as my fellow diners and I pondered each bite.

And so was the pacing. Coupled with the quality and tastiness of the dishes, the dining experience was top-notch. Of course, there was at least one love- (or lust-?) inducing ingredient by any interpretation in each course. Oysters two ways; pork via “Bacon and Eggs” – that is, Poached Arauncana Egg in Iberico Nest with Sundried Tomato Butter poached Fingerlings and Ovan Roasted Grape Tomatoes; chili via Fried Mushroom Salad with Chipotle Chervil Aioli and strawberry via a Strawberry-Ginger Granite as a mid-dinner palate cleanser. The wine pairings were also stellar, bringing in another dimension to each course and even the wine itself as proper pairings should.

Dining the Orgasmo de la Boca Way | Photo by Tricia Romano

I always love oysters – especially on the halfshell – and the spicy Fried Mushroom Salad was absolutely lovely, especially when paired with the ’09 Marina Alta Blanco. My favorite was actually a main – the duck breast with the cauliflour and basil puree with dried fig and brandy gastrique as well as fennel. Apparently, women used to dust powdered basil on themselves as a scent and figs were Cleopatra’s favorite fruit. With fennel (which the Egyptians used as a libido enhancement) making the third aphrodisiac ingredient in this dish, perhaps I was really into the thematics and this is why my appetite ultimately “culminated” with this one!

Also delicious was the Coriander Crusted Salmon with Sunchoke Puree and Latke in Tomato and Asparagus Broth. With asparagus and especially coriander being the key ingredients here, I admit there is rarely an experience where I don’t enjoy salmon and this night would have been no exception. The coriander was a really nice touch, highlighting the richness of the fish.

Coriander Crusted Salmon, Sunchoke Puree and Latke, Tomato and Asparagus Broth | Photo by Tricia Romano

Of course, it’s not a proper “love” dinner without dessert, and the “Chocolate Covered Menage a Trois” with sea salt panna cotta, frozen bananas and almond brittle (or manage a quatre with the ’09 Monticelli Muscato d’Asti) did not disappoint. The saltiness, sweetness from both chocolate and fruit and multiple textures just bombarded the senses and was a conclusion to behold.

While Allesandra is known for her smoked olives (see: Artisanal LA), it is clear that she deserves an honest look at her underground dinners. They’re delicious, professional yet hospitable and are a multiple-course tour de force to be reckoned with. The themes change according to her whimsy and inspiration, so there’s a different experience awaiting each diner every time. One thing is constant, however: You can sense her passion in each bite.

For the next dinner on June 4, be sure to reserve here.

All food and wine were hosted.

Special thanks to Tricia Romano for the photos.

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Orgasmo de la Boca

Undisclosed location

Dinners organized on case-by-case basis

Average cost: $125 per person